Sunday, January 30, 2005

Buzz kill

In a recent post, I conjectured that pesticides might have had something to do with the collapse of North Carolina's wild-bee population. Sloppy wording made it seem like I meant that pesticides, and not mites, had caused the decline of domestictated honey bees, which clearly have been scourged by mites.

The AP article referenced in my post said this: "Twenty years ago the state had a healthy population of wild bees, but they have been ravaged by mites."

Since I don't really know much about the topic, I've been doing some research. I'll call the NC State professor quoted in the article to get his perspective Monday. In the meantime, here is a National Geographic piece from last fall on the decline of wild bees in North America. While it contains no information regarding the North Carolina in particular, the article does have this to say:

" 'Prior to the advent of large-scale monoculture agriculture [the practice of growing only one kind of plant in a given plot] in the fifties and the use of lots of chemical pesticides, native bees and feral honeybees pollinated everything. It [pollination of crops] wasn't an issue. People didn't cart bees all over the country,' [Scott Hoffman Black, executive director of the Xerces Society, an insect-conservation group] said.

...

While the mites that have proven so devastating to domesticated honeybee populations cause little effect to the wild bees, pesticide use and habitat loss are taking their toll, according to Black.

'Like any animal, native bees need a place to live,' he said. 'They need nest sites and floral resources, and if they don't have them, they won't be there.' "

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